CHAPTER II - ORGANIZING A REGIONAL GROUP
Section 1. Organizing/Convening a Meeting
A. In accordance with the provisions of Section 2 of Article XIV (Regional Groups) of the BVA National Bylaws, five (5) or more eligible Members and/or Associate Members of the BVA, in good standing, may form a new regional group.
1. An eligible Member is a service-connected blinded veteran BVA member who has paid dues for the current year (dues must be paid before January 1st of each year or the Member is delinquent), or a service-connected blinded veteran BVA member who is a Life Member, or is paying to life membership.
2. An eligible Associate Member is a non-service-connected blinded veteran, BVA member, whose blindness is non-service connected and who has paid dues for the current year (dues must be paid before January 1st of each year or the Associate Member is delinquent), or a non-service-connected blinded veteran BVA member who is Associate Life Member, or is paying to life membership.
B. The procedure is to announce by letter or flyer to all interested members in the area in which the group is to be formed, that there will be an organizational meeting at a certain place and time. At the meeting, temporary officers must be elected, and the group must be named.
Section 2. Applying for a Regional Group Charter
A. Once the organizational meeting has been held, the group named (the regional group must have the geographical name in its title), and temporary officers elected, the Group must submit an application, signed by at least five (5) eligible Members and/or Associate Members in attendance, to the BVA National Headquarters (Attn: Administrative Director) requesting the issuance of a charter. A sample application for a BVA regional group charter is provided in Appendix A.
1. An alternative is to send a copy of certified minutes of the organizational meeting at which a motion is adopted requesting the issuance of a charter. The minutes must list the names of five (5) or more eligible Members and/or Associate Members present and show that they adopted the motion.
2. If a regional group exists which has jurisdiction of the area in which the new group is being formed, then the consent of that regional group for the formation of the new group must be obtained by the new group being formed. Such consent must be in the form of a letter, or the minutes of a meeting of that group, stating that the group consents to the formation of the new group (Section 3, Article XIV, BVA National Bylaws refers).
B. If it is desired that the group have a special name, then that name should be included in the application, or in the minutes of the organizational meeting. In either case, the boundaries of the desired new group must be specified (state boundaries, names of counties, etc.).
C. The BVA National Office will submit the written application, or written meeting minutes, whichever the case may be, to the BVA National Board of Directors which will decide whether or not to issue a new charter.
D. A sample regional group charter is set forth at Appendix B.
Section 3. Preparing and Submitting Regional Group Bylaws
A. Section 10 of Article XIV (Regional Groups) of the BVA National Bylaws requires that "immediately after its organization, each new regional group shall elect a President, Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer (provided that the group, in its discretion, may combine the offices of Secretary and Treasurer), and other officers from among its Members and/or Associate Members considered necessary for its operation and shall forthwith adopt and forward to the National Headquarters bylaws for its government and control. Such bylaws shall not be effective unless or until approved by the National Board of Directors."
B. The newly formed regional group must prepare and submit its bylaws to the National Headquarters in a timely manner for approval by the BVA National Board of Directors.
C. In accordance with Section 10a(2) of Article XIV (Regional Groups) of the BVA National Bylaws, no bylaws or provisions thereof, not required of all regional groups under the same or similar circumstances, shall be required of any one regional group.
D. Sample regional group bylaws are set forth at Appendix C. It must be emphasized that these are sample bylaws only, and the regional group is not bound to tailor their bylaws exactly to these sample bylaws.
Section 4. Incorporating a Regional Group
A. From time to time, the question arises from members of an unincorporated BVA regional group whether the group should incorporate. There are two main advantages to incorporating as follows:
1. The first advantage to incorporation is the limitation of liability - that is, only the corporation (and not the members) can be held liable for debts, judgments, etc., of the organization if it is in corporate form. This is the normal reason for a business to incorporate, because it runs up liabilities as it operates. But a regional group is not a business and ordinarily does not run up liabilities except on a very minimal scale.
2. The second major reason for incorporation is to obtain tax-exempt status, normally under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Code,and to make contributions to the organization deductible for tax purposes, under Section 170(c) of the IRS Code, and this cannot be achieved unless the organization is in corporate form.
2a. The first part of this - the exemption from taxation - would seem to be of virtually no importance to a BVA regional group since it normally does not generate any taxable income.
2b. The other part - the tax deduction for contributions - could be important (if a regional group had a prospective donor who wanted to give a substantial sum) because donors practically always want to be assured that their contributions will be tax - deductible, and indeed, some foundations and perhaps other organizations are prohibited from donating to any organization that is not a Section 501(c)(3) entity.
2b(1) A pertinent question here is: What are the chances of a regional group having a really substantial contributor?
2b(2) The disadvantage of becoming a corporation is that the regional group generally subjects itself to some regulation by the state and by the federal government. This involves filing reports, possibly paying some fees, and perhaps other requirements. These are generally not substantial but possibly could be; however, they are in most cases a nuisance.
2c. The decision of whether to incorporate or not is a decision strictly for the regional group leadership. Any state or federal regulations impacting a regional group as a result of incorporation as well as payment of fees and other requirements are strictly the responsibility of the regional group.
B. Should a regional group consider incorporation, it is strongly recommended that the regional group enlist the services of a lawyer familiar with matters of incorporation to assist the group and/or act as a consultant.
Section 5. Acquiring Tax Exempt Status
A. The National Organization of the Blinded Veterans Association is exempt from Federal income tax under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Code, such exemption having been originally granted on August 5, 1946, and subsequently reaffirmed by the IRS on March 28, 1966.
1. On August 11, 1980, the BVA National Board of Directors made a policy decision not to extend the tax-exempt status of the National Organization to BVA regional groups based on the IRS guidelines and codes. Accordingly, BVA regional groups are not automatically exempt from Federal income taxes.
2. Only those regional groups which have independently applied for and received a tax-exemption from the IRS are exempt. Such groups are directly responsible to the IRS and are subject to filing their own IRS Form 990 (Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax).
B. Any BVA regional group which is not currently exempt from Federal income tax may, if they wish, apply for exemption on their own. Application may be made for exemption as either a "charitable and educational organization" (Section 501(c)(3) of the IRS Code), or as a "war veterans organization" (Section 501(c)(19) of the IRS Code).
1. The proper IRS forms are Forms 1023 and 1024 respectively. In addition, Groups filing for IRS exemption are also required to apply for an "Employer Identification Number" by filing an IRS Form SS-4 (Application for Employer Identification Number).
2. The aforementioned IRS forms are available through the regional group's nearest IRS regional office, the BVA National Headquarters (Attn: Administrative Director), or by calling the IRS toll-free number 1-800-829-3676 (Federal Tax Form Distribution Center, Richmond, Virginia) and requesting the form(s).
C. Regional groups filing for exempt status should be aware that an additional requirement exists to file an IRS Form 8718 (User Fee for Exempt Organization Determination Letter Request) together with an appropriate fee when filing for exempt status. Check with the IRS for the current Fees for filing for exemption status. They range depending on the organization's annual gross receipts and the type of organization.
1. In most cases, the fee for a Regional Group filing for exempt status will be $150.00. note: This number needs to be updated to reflect current base fee
2. IRS Form 8718 is available through the Regional Group's nearest IRS regional office, or by calling the IRS toll-free number 1-800-829-3676 (Federal Tax Form Distribution Center, Richmond, Virginia) and requesting the form(s).
D. Regional groups should be aware of the merits of applying under the two aforementioned sections of the IRS Code.
1. Organizations exempt under Section 501(c)(3) will most likely find it easier to obtain contributions since the rules governing many foundations and other organizations place restrictions on donations to organizations which do not fall under the provisions of Section 501(c)(3).
2. However, Section 501(c)(3) organizations have strict limitations upon the amount of expenditures that they can make for the purpose of influencing legislation (such as lobbying and attempting to influence public opinion). Groups that engage in an abundance of this type of activity might want to consider applying under Section 501(c)(19) instead.
E. Regional groups should also be aware of the annual income tax filing requirements that tax-exempt organizations are required to meet. Depending upon the classification of the group and the annual gross receipts that it receives, it may have to file either IRS Form 990 or 990-PF (Return of a Private Foundation or Section 4947(a)(1) Charitable Trust Treated as a Private Foundation).
F. As the application process for tax-exemption is complex and will probably vary according to the specific circumstances of each group, interested regional groups are advised to consult their nearest IRS regional office for information relating specifically to them and/or consult a tax attorney.
G. Additionally, it is strongly recommended that interested regional groups consult IRS Publication 557 (Tax-Exempt Status for Your Organization). Copies of this publication may be obtained from the nearest IRS office, or by calling the IRS toll-free number listed in the second paragraph on this page.